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Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton applies for job in Sarasota County

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton submitted his application for the administrator's job in Sarasota County on Friday, the deadline for applicants.

In response, one Hernando commissioner said it may be time to seek a replacement for Hamilton.

Hamilton, 62, called the Sarasota job "an incredible opportunity in a very dynamic part of the Tampa Bay region.''

"The process is just getting started, and it has a long way to go,'' he said Friday evening.

Hamilton learned of the job opening weeks ago through the Mercer Group, the private company hired by the Sarasota County Commission to advertise and cull through applicants for the job. Jim Ley, Sarasota County's former administrator, offered his resignation in May in the midst of a procurement scandal.

A focus group seeking public input regarding qualities Sarasota residents want in their next administrator determined recently that they want a "superhero" with "people skills,'' according to published reports.

Hernando County commissioners learned of Hamilton's application late Friday when he called them to tell them the news. He said they were understanding and encouraging.

"I've thought about this long and hard,'' Hamilton said. He said he and his wife, Linda, have been discussing the idea, but he didn't make the decision until Friday.

"We love the Tampa Bay region, and this could be another new opportunity within Tampa Bay,'' said Hamilton, who came to Hernando County in March 2008.

"Sarasota is a very wealthy county. It has tremendous potential to grow in a number of key areas, including biomedical technology and innovative business development,'' he said. "It also has a legacy of foundations and nonprofit organizations, and that is of interest to my wife in her professional career.''

Hamilton said he and his wife have frequently visited the area, and "it's an absolutely beautiful part of Florida. … Sarasota County is a standout among communities in Florida. It is a larger organization and a dynamic organization.''

The move comes at a time of upheaval in Hernando County government. Two key members of Hamilton's leadership team left this week — environmental services director Joe Stapf, who took a job in his hometown in Minnesota, and community development director Jean Rags, who quit to care for her ailing mother.

He also weathered his own procurement controversy earlier this year, when he was chided by the county's auditor for violating purchasing practices in the hiring of a construction manager for the Hernando Beach Channel dredge.

When asked if the departures and controversies in Hernando played into his decision to apply elsewhere, Hamilton said, "Timing is always a difficult matter. That's one of the reasons I waited until today as I considered all of the different facts.

"At the end of the day, it's an incredible challenge (in Sarasota), and I have offered my name for consideration.''

Hernando Commissioner John Druzbick said Friday evening he was concerned about Hamilton's application and will meet with him Monday to discuss the matter.

"It's disappointing that he'd want to apply for another position with all the work we have to do here in Hernando County,'' Druzbick said.

"I believe we may have to start looking for another county administrator.''

Hernando commission Chairman Jim Adkins said he didn't have an issue with Hamilton applying for the job.

"I guess it's all right,'' he said. "I want to wish him well.''

Sarasota commissioners are scheduled to get Mercer's top 15 candidates to consider on Nov. 2. On Nov. 8, the commission will pick a short list of approximately five applicants. Interviews will follow, with a final selection expected Nov. 15, according to Sarasota County spokeswoman Crystal Pruitt.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando County Administrator David Hamilton applies for job in Sarasota County 10/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 8:16pm]
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